Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

March column: Brewer Redner will back ally Young over own dad in Senate race

State Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, has a surprising ally in her state Senate race against Democrat Bob Buesing and no-party candidate Joe Redner: Redner's son and daughter-in-law, Joey and Jennifer Redner, have each given the maximum $1,000 contribution to Young's campaign.

They made the contributions way before Joe Sr. got in the race. Joey runs Cigar City Brewery and Young is a long-time champion of the craft brewing industry.

So will the younger Redners now come around and support dad?

Well, no.

"When the industry was just starting, she was one of the few politicians that would even meet with us and listen to us," Joey Redner said. "I support my dad as my dad and I love him, but I think Dana is pretty effective. I don't agree with all her politics, but I also don't agree with all my dad's politics, either."

Joe the Elder can't complain too much. His share of the profits from the sale of Joey's phenomenally successful brewery are enabling him to partly self-fund his campaign.

Algae bloom crisis enmeshes Young, Big Sugar

Another ally is causing Young more of a headache – Big Sugar.

Its huge political contributions to state officials — $57.8 million since 1996 — are in the spotlight because of the catastrophic East Coast algae bloom.

Environmental groups blame the bloom on environmental deregulation by Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature; on state policies allowing massive agricultural waste discharges into Lake Okeechobee, which then flow into rivers and estuaries; and on the refusal by Republican politicians to buy agricultural land south of the lake for water storage and cleanup, despite a 2014 constitutional amendment that directed spending for such land purchases.

A liberal group, Florida Strong has been targeting Republicans since the bloom started and added Young to its list.

Her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, has taken in around $70,000 this election cycle from sugar and fertilizer interests, and her campaign has collected about $11,000 more, according to an analysis of state contributions records.

Part of the issue is timing. Young got a $20,000 check from U.S. Sugar on June 2, just before the algae hit the headlines.

"Ask Rep. Dana Young: Why is our water toxic?" the group said in an email blast.

Young says the attack is off target.

"For a left-wing political group to suggest that contributions supporting my campaign somehow affect the good work that I do as a legislator is offensive and frankly it smacks of desperation," she said. "They attacked me on the comprehensive water bill we passed this year — it passed the house in a bipartisan manner, 118-2, and the Nature Conservancy supported it."

Young said the issue is "very complex, the solutions are complex, and they are absolutely off the point on this."

Ribeiro pours on the cash in black-district race

Agostinho "Augie" Ribeiro, new entrant into the District 19 Democratic state Senate primary, says he'll report more than $400,000 raised in the first two weeks of his campaign, $300,000 of it his own money, making him the runaway fundraising leader in the largely black district.

But that also makes Ribeiro, who's running against three black primary competitors, part of a trend that some black political leaders say they're leery of — non-black, self-funding candidates running in districts that might elect black legislators.

In heavily black Senate District 38, for example, lawyer Jason Pizzo has poured $400,000 into a race with three black candidates, including Rep. Daphne Campbell and former Rep. Phillip Brutus.

In Democratic-leaning District 30, trial lawyer Michael Steinger is self-funding with $220,000, plus thousands more from his family, law firm and related companies, in a Democratic primary against state Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach.

"Politics is a place where people who've served an area should be able to represent that area without having to be independently wealthy," said Powell, an urban planner.

Said incoming Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon, "As someone who worked hard with redistricting and creating minority access seats, it is disappointing to see that we may reduce the number of minorities" in the Legislature.

The response from Ribeiro, who's Hispanic: "After researching the candidates I decided that I would be the best to fight for the people of this district. It's a minority district, and I'm a minority."

He's self-funding, he said, so he can remain "unbought" by special interests — "insurance companies, utilities and payday loan companies who are strangling this community."

Ribeiro noted that top Democrats recruited him to run against Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes in District 24, and that he seriously considered it, even after redistricting put his home in District 19. One reason is his concern about the downtown St. Petersburg area, where he lives, and its surroundings.

Police group backs Frank in court clerk race

Clerk of Court Pat Frank has scored a significant endorsement from the West Central Florida and Tampa chapters of the Police Benevolent Association in the increasingly bitter Democratic primary for clerk with county Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

Jones gets grief over Walsh endorsement

Todd Jones, Republican challenging Democratic incumbent property appraiser Bob Henriquez, is being criticized by Democrats because of a Facebook posting on his endorsement by former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh.

Walsh, an Illinois radio talk show host who rode the tea party wave into Congress in 2010 but was unseated in 2012, has drawn attention for incendiary comments about race and Islam. But he made new headlines with a tweet following the Dallas police shootings that seemed to include a threat against President Barack Obama: "This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you."

The endorsement came about by happenstance when Walsh and Jones were both speakers at a College Republicans meeting at the University of Tampa in April, Jones said.

Jones rejected Walsh's tweets as "reprehensible," but said he hasn't taken down the Facebook post because, "We're living in a world that is polarizing, and that's not helpful for finding solutions. If we are unwilling to converse with people we disagree with, we're never going to be able to bridge the gaps that divide us."

He also blamed Henriquez for "politicizing a tragic event like what happened in Dallas."

"I didn't bring this up to begin with. I'm not politicizing anything," Henriquez responded. "The question is, do you need to distance yourself from this person. If not, it says something about your judgment."

Contact William March at [email protected]

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